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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    I have just re-read the redacted sections of the Bailey Report, and there is no reference in the Report as to what the WSR PLC board intended to use Washford for, other than "for its own use or business purposes".

    The lease in any event covers 3 parcels of land; the station building, the signal box, and the yard.
     
  2. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

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    In that case you would never be able, successfully, to bring someone in to the board from outside the railway, which is something that has often been done. It does presuppose, and I was presupposing, a management team that did know how the railway worked and were able to advise a board with general railway knowledge about WSR specific matters. It doesn't really matter if the board don't know about stuff, so long as there are people around who do and the board is prepared to seek advice.
     
  3. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Whatever you think of the present board Alex they did SAVE the WSR as I believe the plc was on the point of bankruptcy

    But now it is a question of whether or not they are the right people to take it forward having saved it.

    Sorry so late with this post but have only just retrieved my computer from the repairer - it failed last Thursday and I am catching up!
     
  4. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

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    Ah, but was it? I know that's what the figures say, but the figures say what the people who put them together want them to say. This is Investing in the Stock Market 101, as our transatlantic cousins put it.
     
  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I don't think that is true, the increasing trend being that directors of heritage railway operating companies have formal experience, particularly in the safety-critical areas (engineering and operations; as well as finance). Not necessarily gained on the railway of which they are a director, but I think the days of the "gentleman amateur" director are going. One of the former traits of the WSR plc was that they seemed to have a board with a certain number of members, but no specific accountability for each - something that (as per a recent issue of Platform) seemed to have been addressed, with each director having a defined role. Currently of course the board is still very thin, and since the resignation of Mr Meanley, is short of engineering expertise.

    That does have implications: it means that directors in the operational entity probably needed to be head-hunted based on filling a known skills gap, rather than selected by some kind of popularity contest. That likely means co-options of a suitable candidate when required, confirmed by vote at the next AGM. Which then leads to thoughts about how members of a railway have oversight on strategy; my favoured model would be a subsidiary company with professional (*) directors; but with that company wholly owned by a membership body, the directors of that body acting as a kind of non-executive board - in other words a group of wise elder statesmen who let the directors of the operating company manage the railway on a day-to-day basis, but within constraints of following a strategic direction set by the membership body.

    (*) In skills; I don't mean paid.

    Tom
     
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  6. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    We were talking on the context of wholesale board changes rather than bringing an individual in. My personal view though is that even if you're bringing in just an individual then they should familiarise themselves with the railway as soon as possible, preferably by taking up a position "on the ground."
     
  7. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    That explains the likes I've been getting from dozens of pages ago, I did wonder! :) I'm prepared to accept that the present board "saved" the WSR. I don't think they did anything particularly clever though, from the sounds of it it involved stopping the use of contractors for everything and putting as many assets in hock to the bank as possible. As you say, it's how you go forward that counts. How does the WSR survive long term without a reliance on contractors, and buy its assets back? It feels to me that what the board have done so far is the "easy" bit, sure it must have been a tough decision, but it didn't require much imagination.
     
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  8. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I disagree with the view that managerial expertise is sufficient, and that domain knowledge is unnecessary. While I can see a role for what @Jamessquared calls the "gentleman amateur" directors within a broader group, especially if used in a non-executive role, my view is that in general domain knowledge is necessary, if only to help with sifting wheat from chaff when being briefed by the specialists.

    More importantly, I rather doubt that many heritage railways have the luxury of being able to separate board membership from operational management. The idea of such separation of duties has come up at times on this thread, as though in a small to medium enterprise like the WSR, it is possible to draw a clear line between strategic direction and operational management. I consider that separation a dangerous delusion, requiring people to operate within very tight boxes, and denying organisations already short of access to talent the ability to recruit the talent that they need. The emphasis should be on forming an effective team, in and around the board, who can together lead the railway both in pursuit of long run goals and on a more day to day basis.
     
  9. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    The very first statement (20 Feb) on this matter from the S&DRT clearly says that the eviction notice was issued by the WSR PLC on the grounds that the site was required for the PLC's own purposes, although it was not stated what those purposes might be:

    http://www.wsr.org.uk/r-news202002.htm#1965

    However, the first press release from the PLC emphasized a quite different reason for expulsion of the S&DRT, focusing on the level of financial support provided by the S&DRT to the PLC. The PLC regarded this financial support as inadequate and claimed that the S&DRT "acted rather like a cuckoo in the nest, which the PLC found unacceptable".

    http://www.wsr.org.uk/r-news202002.htm#1970
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.c...et-railway-board-statement-regarding-washford

    The PLC statement does go on to talk in vague terms about possible alternative uses for the Washford site, but this gives the impression of being an afterthought. So my inference is that, although the formal official reason for the eviction notice is that the PLC requires the site for another purpose, the true reason is that the PLC Board was displeased at not getting more money out of the S&DRT.

    The S&DRT has now indicated that it intends to start the process of moving from Washford. This may be because the S&DRT do not wish to risk the uncertain outcomes and costs of court action. Alternatively, even if the S&DRT have a watertight case, they may see a court win as a potentially Pyrrhic victory, given that they would be occupying Washford alongside a hostile WSR.

    I think that this affair is going to leave a bitter taste, for years after the S&DRT are gone from Washford. The WSR has alienated many, and this will have an on-going negative impact on the willingness of enthusiasts to donate or leave legacies to the WSR, and possibly also reduce the numbers keen to volunteer on the railway. And as I mentioned in a previous post, a net result will be that significant cash moves out of the coffers of railway preservation and into the coffers of removal and storage companies.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  10. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    In defence of JJP who the hell else was going to do it?

    I cannot think of Anyone Then or Now!

    Unless some of you know something I do not, that is?

    That said I am still very disappointed about some of the ways in which it was achieved, but at least the WSR survived to fight another day!
     
  11. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think the question was what did JJP do that others couldn't thanks to his "contacts"? Anyone can stop work being done by contractors. It's too early to see if the WSR has gone back to a more sustainable management on that side of things. And unless it was his "contacts" that secured the bank loans against all the Plc assets, I'd have thought anyone could have done that too. I appreciate "anyone" didn't, it was JJP, he had the balls to do it, fine. But it's hardly genius level stuff, it's a sticking plaster to allow time for a genius level plan to evolve. So far this plan involves p!ssing off a great many people who might otherwise be supportive, for no discernible gain.
     
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  12. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Has anyone considered the fact that if the magical 14 now 10 are Unacceptable to the Membership of WSSRT then they won't be elected?

    Simples!

    Or is it more a case that the Chairman has no confidence that they will be rejected and that his tenure will then cease?
     
  13. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Quite, anyone reading the press releases could be forgiven for thinking that the 14/10 barged into the boardroom and have taken up residence!
     
  14. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Alex I think you missed my point

    If JJP hadn't been around exactly WHO would have taken that action?

    The answer that someone would is insufficient

    There was No Time to Waste or we would not even be discussing this because the Railway would be in Liquidation. Sorry but I do not recall you being present at the plc meeting where this was all explained.
     
  15. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Oh I agree, he did the things. But the things weren't tricky to do, even if they were tough decisions to make. So yes, thank goodness he had the presence of mind to secure some loans from the bank, if that was what was necessary at the time great. But its hardly something that makes you sit up and think "wow, here's a guy who knows how to steer us out of this mess".

    I fear I'm babbling, I think I'll leave this particular aspect alone now... Others feel free to express it more articulately than me! :)
     
  16. gios

    gios Member

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    @bluetrain. Nail - Head. Facts without animosity or conjecture.

    The damage incurred by the methods and morality employed in the rather sordid S&DRT eviction will certainly have caused major long term financial and goodwill loss to the WSR.

    I am just one of, I suspect many, who's support has gone elsewhere. Some of it indeed to help pay removal costs !
     
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  17. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    In late 2018, you are probably right. But what we are now seeing is how that initially necessary process is in itself jeopardising the future of the WSR.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  18. mdewell

    mdewell Member

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    Opinion/baggage/history/experience. Call it whatever you like.
    I certainly didn't mean the term baggage as in any way derogatory, and was just using the same term as Lineisclear in his previous post.
     
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  19. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Could it be that the financial situation was exaggerated in order to present and existential threat to the line in order to justify extraordinary measures? In other words a classic example of what is known as the 'securitisation' of an issue. The heighten level of threat is used as justification for going above and beyond what is normal ie surveillance post 9/11, Covid lockdowns,

    Just out of interest can someone point me in the direction of a concrete example of Jones Pratt's 'contacts' in action on the railway and how they contributed to turning around the financial situation on the railway. It is always good to see evidence.
     
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  20. Lplus

    Lplus Member

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    So do you think that initial process included the eviction of the SDRT and the recent behaviour towards dissenters?

    Because, in my view, whatever motives JJP had and whether or not the refinancing package was just a finger in the dyke - the refinancing in itself is not the reason the PLc is held in such low regard. That is due to the behaviour of the Plc towards other organisations and people on the railway.

    There are so many different factors in play I feel it is important to differentiate between them.
     
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